Sunday, August 10, 2008

Homeless briefing

Yesterday I rode around town and asked people if they wanted some underwear. A group from our church goes several times a year and takes things to the homeless. In the summer it is underwear, socks, t-shirts, hats, bandanas, chapstick, shoes, bottled water, and packages containing soap, a washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodarent. This was my first time to go along. Five of us packed up a minivan and left around 9 am and got back about 2 pm. We went to the Rescue Mission, Frienemann Square, a government housing project, and several other spots where they thought the homeless might congregate. We just stopped along the street for a couple of people who looked like they needed something. It was weird how when we stopped, pretty soon people just seemed to appear out of nowhere.

Before we started out we sorted and unpackaged everything. We put three pairs of underwear and two pairs of socks in ziplock baggies (and wrote the size on the baggy), and separated all the t-shirts and everything else. I guess you don't want to give something in a package that they can try to return to a store or try to sell. Then we prayed, and ...just drove around.

They told me that when we approach someone to try to say something like, "We have some socks and underwear and stuff and we're looking for people that might need some. Do you happen to know of anyone?" That way it's not like we're insinuating that they look like they're in need. We also talked about not wanting to come off like we were the "nice people" doing something for the "unfortunate" people. I never had any trouble with that, because far too often the people we dealt with were much nicer than I am anyway. Just about every single person was polite, though many were pretty quiet too. One guy even brought back his underwear because he said he didn't really need it - he just needed socks right now.

We needed more smaller sizes of underwear, and larger sized t-shirts. And the soap/washcloth packs went over really well. Everyone also wanted bottled water.

We ran across one guy who was asleep leaning up against a dumpster. Two ladies showed up right when we did. He was obviously drunk, and had a cut on his head, and his speech was pretty slurred. He said he didn't want an ambulance or anything. I thought he was just trying to sleep off a drunk and thought we should leave him alone, but the two ladies called an ambulance anyway, and pretty soon the police were there. We didn't stick around to find out what happened.

I don't really know if it was what I expected or not. I have to say, I've never seen anyone get quite so excited over a new pair of underwear and socks. So I think it is definitely a worthwhile venture. I guess I also discovered there were more homeless people in Fort Wayne than I thought. Most of them looked very normal and I would never have guessed they were homeless, but some were kind of sad. I think, if anything, it maybe made me realize that there's not much difference between them and me. Not much at all. We all have needs. Some are just more obvious than others.

One thing I thought really odd though... I don't know how many packages of underwear people from our church donated - maybe 40 or so - but every single one of them were briefs. Am I the only person in the world who wears boxers?

Peace out; and in.